top of page

What Do Successful Business Leaders And Hostage Negotiators Have In Common?

Written by: Nikki Langman, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


High Emotional Intelligence.

A couple of years ago, I was one of two speakers at a leadership summit for real estate professionals in the United States. I was speaking about Emotionally Intelligent Leadership and the other speaker was a Detective and Former FBI Hostage Negotiator. I sat in the back of the room listening intently as the Detective spoke about the process of negotiating in very high stakes situations.

The Detective shared with us the five-step Behavioral Change Stairway Model that was developed by the FBI’s hostage negotiation unit.

These are the five steps for effective hostage negotiation:

  1. Active Listening: Demonstrate that you’re listening.

  2. Empathy: Where are they coming from and how do they feel?

  3. Rapport: Empathy is what you feel. Rapport is when they feel it back. Trust begins.

  4. Influence: Discuss problem-solving and action steps with them.

  5. Behavioral Change: They act.

As the Detective explained this five-step process for hostage negotiators, I silently compared it to the competencies and behaviors of emotionally intelligent leaders. I was struck by how remarkably similar our messages were.

Trust and Rapport

Hostage Negotiators: The most important thing a negotiator must do to be successful with a hostage-taker is build trust and rapport. That seems logical when we are discussing it on paper, but in a real high-emotion hostage situation, there might be strong urges to flex muscle or coerce an outcome – often leading to disastrous consequences. The negotiator understands that gaining the individual’s trust is critical and is carefully built by active listening and empathetically allowing the individual feel heard and understood.

Emotionally Intelligent Leaders: The most important skill that an emotionally intelligent leader must demonstrate to be successful is to build trust and rapport. A leader high in emotional intelligence is able to create a trusting psychologically safe environment and be present and open to hearing what others feel, observe, and need, without judgement.


Hostage Negotiators: Sometimes there is a temptation to skip the first three steps of the Behavioral Change Stairway Model and move right into influence, especially if time is a concern. This is ineffective. You cannot force influence. Instead of pretending that emotions do not belong in negotiations, hostage negotiators have designed an approach that takes emotions fully into account and uses them to influence situations.

Emotionally Intelligent Leaders: Many business leaders also fall into the trap of thinking that the harder they push from the top down, the more influence they are likely to have. Many leaders prefer to skip the first three steps and go right into wielding power to incite action. However, fear-based compliance creates mistrust. Emotionally intelligent leaders understand that it is their job to create an environment of psychological safety. A great leader will take the time to listen and learn about their people and understand their values, what drives them, what is meaningful to them, and how they can best feel supported.

My Mentor, Michael Grinder, says it best. “We are inadvertently in love with the Influence of Power. We need to be in love with the Power of Influence.”

Whether you are in a high-stakes rescue operation or leading a business or team, these five steps for effective negotiation will provide a roadmap for understanding the power of influence.

Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, or visit my website for more info!


Nikki Langman, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Nikki Langman is an International Speaker, Author, Thought Leader on Emotional Intelligence and Self-Mastery, and Business Consultant and Facilitator. She is passionate about personal transformation and self-leadership. She believes that our potential for impact and influence with others is dependent on how effectively we understand and lead ourselves first.

As a Business Consultant and Facilitator, Nikki is committed to guiding organizations to achieve higher, sustainable levels of business excellence. She has led successful emotional intelligence and leadership programs for many global organizations with exceptional executive and team leadership results, personal empowerment, culture enhancement, and significantly improved workplace safety.

Nikki is often called on to speak at industry events, schools, sporting groups, and conferences globally on the topics of self-mastery, resilience and overcoming adversity, emotional intelligence, nonverbal communication, and leadership. Nikki empowers and inspires audiences with her engaging core message that no matter what your starting point is or what you believe your obstacles are, you can become your most powerful self and a highly influential and effective leader with the right amount of daily “badassery.” Nikki is the author of the recently released book, "How to be a BADASS: Navigating Your Road to Self-Mastery."



  • linkedin-brainz
  • facebook-brainz
  • instagram-04


bottom of page